David Romtvedt is Wyoming’s poet laureate. I had not heard of the man until this morning, when I read his geo-cultural essay, “Red Politics And Blue In Wyoming” in this month’s issue of The SUN.
Coding our states red or blue according to whether they have given their electoral-college votes to a Republican or a Democratic candidate tells us very little about the people who live there and with whom we pass our lives. This simple-minded labeling is degrading. It isolates us and forces us to lead lives that are intellectually and emotionally impoverished. Worse, it is an early symptom of the thinking that led to ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and to the restructuring of Baghdad into separate Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.
Having spent much of my life in so-called red states–I’m from Nebraska and I live in South Carolina–I found Romtvedt’s piece moving. And it left me wanting to read more of his work.
According to Milkweed, David Romtvedt was born in Portland, Oregon and raised in southern Arizona. He graduated from Reed College in 1972 and received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and was a graduate fellow in Folklore and Ethnomusicology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of two books of fiction and several books of poetry including the National Poetry Series selection A Flower Whose Name I Do Not Know. His work has appeared, most recently, in Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, and North American Review.
Romtvedt believes literature has a role to play in the protection and expansion of democracy. He says his writing arises from trying to understand the collisions between our personal lives–domestic activities, family, friends–and larger social and spiritual issues.